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Open Movie Educator
March 10, 2010 1:49 AM   Subscribe

Raffaella Traniello (Vimeo profile) is an educator and multimedia enthusiast who describes herself as "Animation lover. Linux user. Hungry for clever beauty." She's also committed to bringing free/open source software to the classroom. Her efforts are remarkable in that she achieves pleasant results with community-developed software and involves school children in the production process. Since many users of Linux video editing software -- especially the Cinelerra software package -- are quickly turned off by its opaque interface, Raffaella has also created Cinelerra for Grandma, in which she covers everything from the basics to more difficult subjects like animation.
posted by circular (26 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great great resource. I know it's all voluntary, but sometimes I wish more open source developers spent a bit more time on user experience than writing new programs and plug-ins. Projects that have devoted some time and thought to user interface in all its manifestations stand head and shoulders above the rest. It means that some great, powerful programs are not getting the attention they really deserve because casual and even power users are turned off.
posted by smoke at 2:22 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


God, Cinelerra and its sister project, QuickTime for Linux, are huge crocks of shit. They always have been, for the last 10 years, and it seems development has been pretty much stagnant for the last 5.

I can't imagine why anyone would want to start a "community version" of Cinelerra instead of just writing something from scratch with a modern GUI and architecture. It can't possibly be more work, and I think the result would be much better and arrive faster.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 3:26 AM on March 10, 2010


Her efforts are remarkable in that she achieves pleasant results with community-developed software...

Thanks?

...just writing something from scratch with a modern GUI and architecture.

Cinelerra is from the only video editor for Linux. apt-cache search video | grep edit returned more hits than I could parse easily. Google found articles that listed merely the top 5 or 10.

Anyway, I'm really glad this person has done all this work and posted it. We definitely need to get FLOSS into schools (and government and the workplace and the home) and well-written tutorials for Regular User tasks is a huge part of that.
posted by DU at 4:54 AM on March 10, 2010


Sadly, she assumes that "Grandma" will have no trouble inserting a clip into the middle of a movie by the following simple directions:
   1. Save your project.
   2. Arm only the tracks you want to be affected.
   3. Splice the clip from the viewer. Synchro will be lost.
   4. On the timeline, select between in/out points the just spliced edit.
   5. Arm only the tracks not affected by the splice.
   6. Edit→Paste silence. Synchro will be restored.
   7. Make sure the paste silence operation moved effects too.
I'm not just snarking here. I've often noted the utter disconnect between Linux enthusiasts and the rest of the world, to whom they now and again evangelize or berate or at least regard with contempt, over what constitutes "easy." Later she shows how "easy" it is to add dissolves to your slideshow by editing an XML file.

Some contact with non-Linux based humans is in order.
posted by argybarg at 5:24 AM on March 10, 2010


she assumes that "Grandma" will have no trouble inserting a clip into the middle of a movie by the following simple directions

From the page you mention:

BEWARE!!! Work in progress

and

This is not a straightforward process...

Not to mention the fact that this was the 9th tutorial in the series, so many of those operations may now be known to Grandma.
posted by DU at 5:52 AM on March 10, 2010


Good point, DU — I missed the "work in progress" note, so probably not a fair example.

I would make the same claim, though about this example of how to capture video for editing. I find it daunting. There is no chance that my mother, an actual grandma, would feel relaxed about sentences like "In the File field specify the output filename (path included) without the extension," or even the opener, "Install Kino using Synaptic Package Manager."

It's not a problem with the writing; it's a problem with the assumption that the Linux world really is simple and straightforward for the average user as long as someone just explains it in a friendly way. It is not.

The value added in commercial software, the stuff that works, is that it has been tested and scrubbed until it's accessible. More importantly, bad and unusable software dies more readily than the good stuff. It's time in the market, and skins in the game, that gradually forces usability on commercial software.

Maybe usability will come generally to Linux. But it won't as long as people convince themselves that Linux is on the side of the angels and therefore works great.
posted by argybarg at 6:26 AM on March 10, 2010


good god is that ui hideous
posted by nathancaswell at 8:04 AM on March 10, 2010


I'm not sure the "for grandmas" is supposed to be taken literally. Or if it is, since the assumption is that they are recording DV and want to edit it on Linux, that we can assume a certain base state of comfort and familiarity with technology.

The value added in commercial software, the stuff that works, is that it has been tested and scrubbed until it's accessible.

I would not necessarily say this. How long has Microsoft Word been around? I know I wouldn't have told my mom, also an actual grandma, to use it for any but the very simplest of tasks. And editing video has got to be at least as complicated as setting up something like a newsletter.

But it won't as long as people convince themselves that Linux is on the side of the angels and therefore works great.

First of all, your complaint wasn't that cinelerra didn't work, it was that this guide wasn't as hand-holding as the title implied.

Second of all, there is nobody that is convinced that being on the side of the angels is the same as working (or being documented) well. That's exactly why people create these tutorials! Even if imperfect, they still lower the barrier.

The flip side of this warning is people who attempt to convince others that because MS is mammoth they are also good. And also people convinced that, with enough "design", all possible computing tasks can be made as simple as hammering a nail.
posted by DU at 9:05 AM on March 10, 2010


I've seen a group of 7th graders learn their way around Cinelerra in about 10 hours of class time. Surprised me, since that is not an intuitive piece of software for anyone. They learned it enough to make pretty impressive videos (especially given the time constraints, video editing seems to just devour time...).

But it is just a tool, you can learn how to use it. I saw another class learn Blender, and I taught a class on Audacity myself (of teaching Blender, Cinelerra or Audacity, I think I got the better deal...).
posted by alikins at 9:41 AM on March 10, 2010


Always great to see the promise held in Italy's provinces. (I'd seen Rafaella's efforts previously via DeK; the whole teaching process and documentation, as seen in the making-of's, is inspiring.)
posted by progosk at 10:01 AM on March 10, 2010


Openshot looks interesting, as does the Cinlerra fork Cinecutie.

Love the kids' work.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:29 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh cool! I use Cinelerra, & I could learn something!

It's really powerful, & I've gotten acclimated to the interface. I might share this with some other people working in video.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:14 PM on March 10, 2010


My favorite part of the basics:

Step 3: Open Cinelerra. Go to Applications→Sound and Video and click on Cinelerra. She will welcome you with an error message.

LOL - broken by default! Having said that, it's a myth that open source developers don't care about user experience or usability, I think they care deeply. Cinelerra developers are using Trac for bug tracking, and it seems very well organized; the code is also well maintained and documented with Doxygen. Many open source projects invest in wonderful tools like SourceForge, GitHub or Google Code to manage their projects, to make it as easy as possible for users to start contributing bugfixes and code.

Yes, it's true, they're 100% committed to user experience. The mistake people make is thinking that the "user" of an open source project is the person who uses the software. Really, the priority is on the user of the project, the developers who get involved and write code, who are there to practice their coding skills with maximum autonomy and freedom, without interference from clueless business people, managers, marketing and sales, designers, etc.

If you started saying things like "Maybe we should think about people who use the software", you'd alienate a lot of the developers, who are there because they don't have to think about that. That's what happened when a couple of designers got it in their heads to improve the user experience of Drupal.
posted by AlsoMike at 12:47 PM on March 10, 2010


argybarg: “It's not a problem with the writing; it's a problem with the assumption that the Linux world really is simple and straightforward for the average user as long as someone just explains it in a friendly way. It is not. ¶ The value added in commercial software, the stuff that works, is that it has been tested and scrubbed until it's accessible. More importantly, bad and unusable software dies more readily than the good stuff. It's time in the market, and skins in the game, that gradually forces usability on commercial software. ¶ Maybe usability will come generally to Linux. But it won't as long as people convince themselves that Linux is on the side of the angels and therefore works great.”

Honestly, you sound as though you haven't touched a Linux interface since around 2003. This might have been a fair perspective then – back when the majority of Linux users were geeks, and you had to know a whole lot of command-line stuff to do nearly anything at all on a Linux system. But seriously? After Ubuntu? After millions of people have spent years trying to make Linux accessible to ordinary folks? It's pretty obvious now that more testing and more development is done on Linux than on OS X or Windows; MS and Apple simply can't afford to employ as many people as there are who work on Linux.

And the thing is that most of that development has to do with making the UI more user-friendly. I get the impression you simply aren't aware how obsessive the Linux world is, and has been for years now, about UI. I have to say that if anything Linux errs on this side, and as a geek it often annoys me how simplistic everything has to be in Ubuntu.

Hell, I'll just go ahead and say it: Ubuntu Linux is simpler and easier to use than either OS X or Windows. That's not just me; that's the unanimous opinion of the four (computer novice, non-'Linux people') people I've installed it for over the last two months. Really. The only excuse anybody has for thinking that Linux is 'too complex' or 'overcomplicated' or 'only for geeks' is that they haven't tried it for a number of years.
posted by koeselitz at 1:08 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ubuntu Linux is simpler and easier to use than either OS X or Windows. That's not just me; that's the unanimous opinion of the four (computer novice, non-'Linux people') people I've installed it for over the last two months.

I certainly find it much easier than my wife's OSX machine, although that's mainly because I ABSOLUTELY LOATHE computers that think they know better than me. I haven't touched a Windows machine in years, so I can't speak to that.

I do know that my kids (ages 2-11) have almost zero problems playing games, using the web, drawing pictures, changing screensavers, etc. And I don't have to worry about them installing virii or screwing up each other's settings.
posted by DU at 4:57 PM on March 10, 2010


koeselitz: "This might have been a fair perspective then – back when the majority of Linux users were geeks, and you had to know a whole lot of command-line stuff to do nearly anything at all on a Linux system. But seriously? After Ubuntu?"

I agree with you in general that it's improved a lot.

However, Cinelerra is Linux software as designed in the nineties. Witness, from the very first document linked, the very basic instructions:

The quickest way to adjust Cinelerra settings is downloading the configuration file I prepared just for you and saving it in the .bcast folder.

Make sure you have no instances of Cinelerra open.

Open a terminal

Copy and paste one of the following loooong commands, depending on your standard:

PAL:

wget http://www.g-raffa.eu/Cinelerra/HOWTO/Cinelerra_rc-PAL.tar.gz && tar xvf Cinelerra_rc-PAL.tar.gz && mv PALCinelerraSettings/Cinelerra_rc .bcast/Cinelerra_rc && rm Cinelerra_rc-PAL.tar.gz

NTSC:

wget http://www.g-raffa.eu/Cinelerra/HOWTO/Cinelerra_rc-NTSC.tar.gz && tar xvf Cinelerra_rc-NTSC.tar.gz && mv NTSCCinelerraSettings/Cinelerra_rc .bcast/Cinelerra_rc && rm Cinelerra_rc-NTSC.tar.gz


Seriously? In 2010?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:14 PM on March 10, 2010


wget http://www.g-raffa.eu/Cinelerra/HOWTO/Cinelerra_rc-NTSC.tar.gz && tar xvf Cinelerra_rc-NTSC.tar.gz && mv NTSCCinelerraSettings/Cinelerra_rc .bcast/Cinelerra_rc && rm Cinelerra_rc-NTSC.tar.gz

Seriously? In 2010?


It's only crazy because it's unfamiliar. It's a lot simpler than browse/rightclick/saveas/browse/save/etc
posted by DU at 5:31 PM on March 10, 2010


DU: "wget http://www.g-raffa.eu/Cinelerra/HOWTO/Cinelerra_rc-NTSC.tar.gz && tar xvf Cinelerra_rc-NTSC.tar.gz && mv NTSCCinelerraSettings/Cinelerra_rc .bcast/Cinelerra_rc && rm Cinelerra_rc-NTSC.tar.gz

Seriously? In 2010?


It's only crazy because it's unfamiliar. It's a lot simpler than browse/rightclick/saveas/browse/save/etc
"

I can't tell if you're trolling or not. It's not unfamiliar. I worked in development for 8 years, mostly on Linux. Hell, I worked at Ximian for a couple of years. This is Unix. I know this.

But if the above is your idea of an acceptable way to set up some basic settings for an end-user application, you're insane, and the application is totally broken.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 3:57 PM on March 11, 2010


But if the above is your idea of an acceptable way to set up some basic settings for an end-user application, you're insane, and the application is totally broken.

DU isn't insane. He just doesn't spend much time around normal users.

(Kids, by the way, are not normal users. Kids are GENIUSES at learning new things.)
posted by effugas at 9:40 PM on March 11, 2010


I teach *new* linux users every week, as part of this program. I get maybe 10 minutes every class to teach people how to open a terminal window, type something in, and where to put space. At the end of the class I have a little bit of time to get DVD playing up and running. They get instructions just like these, wit the difference they are on paper so they can't cut and paste. Now I'm there to supervise but people mange it fine over and over again with little to no intervention. I've been teaching computing to beginners for over 10 years, much of it on linux, and often to people who have never touched a computer before. I think you are under estimating people.
posted by tallus at 10:46 PM on March 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


tallus--

The problem is differentiating what people can learn versus what people will learn.

People can use pretty much any operating system developed in the last thirty years. I'm serious, if I dropped someone in front of an Apple II, and said "figure out how to do word processing or you're fired", you know, they'd pull it off.

In fact, even if the requirement was extensive typesetting, if it was important enough, anyone "could" learn LaTeX.

But will they?

The reason you design superior interfaces is not that users are genetically incapable of discovering how to use an interface. It's because, the more frustrating the user interface, the more cycles need to be devoted to fighting with the code to make it do the right thing, the less things are done. Learning curves that are cliffs are great to you and me, because we're rock climbers of technology.

But your average hiker won't make the trip. They just won't. And no amount of bizarre ethical argumentation ("but! but! it's free!") is going to change that.

There's a larger theme here. Cell phones were crap for a long time because carriers really thought nobody cared about the phones, they just cared about the network. When the iPhone came out, people abandoned their networks without a second thought (thank number portability). It wasn't just the same old geeks who were always installing J2ME apps on their phones, either. Real, normal people got their email on their phone for the first times in their lives -- and bought software by the millions, because it was EASY.

It amazes me to this day that Apple's App Store was the first really good experience for buying software. It shocks me how poor everybody else's offerings remain.

So that's the deal. People can learn anything. Whether they will, is another story.

Apologies if I'm being blunt. Particular apologies to you, DU, since I don't actually have any idea who you're generally around.
posted by effugas at 12:31 AM on March 12, 2010


Nobody is arguing against improving user interfaces, or claiming that cinelerra has a good one (I mean its notorious for the opposite) but what people will learn is determined by that individual and will vary form individual to individual. There are plenty of people who will take the occasional rough edge for other advantages. These days that includes ease of use advantages, people love have a software repository and synaptic over having to download random pieces unknown freeware from the internet. And sometimes free is a big deal -- we get around a 1000 people a year volunteering, nearly all of them going through the program to get a free PC -- because that's the only way they have to afford one.

I mean Adobe Premiere cost $800 Final Cut Pro $1000, whats a bigger roadblock, that kind of money or cut and pasting a couple of lines?

Sure an Iphone is easy to use, but the cheapest deal will still cost you over $800 over two years when you factor in the contract, that's without buying apps so I'm not buying the claim that Iphone users are necessarily representative of the whole population.
posted by tallus at 3:15 PM on March 12, 2010


tallus,

There's definitely some value to free. But I think what really chaps people is that a lot of the UI crappiness just doesn't have to be that way. In other words, in any sane environment "Cinerella for Grandmas" should be one enormous bug report, not actual documentation for users.

You're right that $1K is a huge roadblock. But how many engineer hours would it take to clean up the worst parts of Cineralla? That that just isn't happening, is kind of sad.
posted by effugas at 3:23 PM on March 12, 2010


It's really disingenuous to take its interface to task using its installation procedures as evidence.
posted by Pronoiac at 4:11 PM on March 12, 2010


Pronoiac--

Without installation, not much else is done. And, anyway, to repeat:
Sadly, she assumes that "Grandma" will have no trouble inserting a clip into the middle of a movie by the following simple directions:

1. Save your project.
2. Arm only the tracks you want to be affected.
3. Splice the clip from the viewer. Synchro will be lost.
4. On the timeline, select between in/out points the just spliced edit.
5. Arm only the tracks not affected by the splice.
6. Edit→Paste silence. Synchro will be restored.
7. Make sure the paste silence operation moved effects too.

I'm not just snarking here. I've often noted the utter disconnect between Linux enthusiasts and the rest of the world,
Yup.
posted by effugas at 10:09 PM on March 12, 2010


I should've called out Joakim Ziegler specifically on the installation procedures.

For its power, Cinelerra's interface has appropriate difficulty, for me, a Linux enthusiast. I care more about being able to do stuff than that it be easy.

Cinelerra's available, it's shipping, it works, & it's free. It's not perfect, but it works for me.
posted by Pronoiac at 8:46 PM on March 14, 2010


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